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66                  HISTORY OF PERSIA
daughter Khayzran was taken by Mehdi into his harem,
and became the mother of Hadi and of 1 laroun.
Persian Influence under Mtmsitr.—During the long
reign of Mansur Persian influence became more and
more marked. The Court dress was Persian, and
literature, medicine, and astronomy began to bo studied
under the patronage of the Caliph, who was specially
interested in astrology. Moreover, the Caliphate, which
possessed no good traditions of administration on which
to rely, adopted the same system as that by which the
Sasanian monarchs had ruled* Chief of the great officers
was the Vizier. The first holder of that title, as has been
already mentioned, was Abu Salma, He was assassinated
and his immediate successor was poisoned* The office
then passed to the famous Barmecides or descendants of
Barmak, a title borne by the high priest of the great tire-
temple of Balkh, who was their ancestor. The Barmecides
ruled for more than fifty years (A.D, 752 804), and by
their splendid abilities and generous patronage of learning
and science created the golden period of the Ahhasid
MeAdi, A.H. 158-169 (775-785).—Mansur during
his lifetime had appointed Mehdi his successor, and when
he died the reaction from his harsh and gloomy rule
found expression in praises of Mehdi, who is described
as " the brilliant moon in beauty ; the spring-time from
his perfumes and suavity; the lion by his courage ; and
the sea, with its resounding waves, is the emblem of his
munificence and generosity*" Nor were these praises
wholly unmerited; for the new Caliph inaugurated his
reign by deeds of mercy, and steadily developed the
Empire, improving communications, fortifying important
centres, founding towns and villages, and encouraging
poetry, literature, and music. On the other hand, there
must be laid to his charge instances of cruelty to his
ministers and generals, and the fact that he organized a
persecution of the Manichaeans, even establishing a special
department to deal with these heretics,
The Veiled Prophet of Kkorasa^ A.H. 158-161 (774-
777).—To the beginning of Mehdi's reign belong the